As part of our Worldette Heroine series, Amy McPherson profiles activist Nasima Rahmani, who battled through Afghanistan’s political turmoil to achieve ongoing triumphs in education and women’s rights.
Nasima Rahmani’s life in Afghanistan has been surrounded by political unrest, war and violation of women’s rights. As a determined young woman, she looked to education as a tool to develop herself and to build a future for herself.
Unfortunately, like many other women around her, education was hard to come by. She first enrolled into tertiary education in 1991 and had to postpone her studies due to the Islamic revolution, then the rule of the Taliban.
Many of the women who studied with her never returned to formal education. Nasima eventually graduated in 2003 from the Faculty of Law in Kabul University, 12 years after she first enrolled.
“Education is a gift, not everyone in the world has that gift” were Nasima’s first words to the students and staff at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) as a speaker at a Q&A Forum on ‘The power to change society’.
A women’s rights activist, Nasima studied a Masters of Law at UTS as a UN Peace Scholar funded by UNIFEM, and is currently a lecturer in the Law Faculty and the Director of the Women’s Empowerment Centre at Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education in Kabul, Afghanistan. At the same time, she works with ActionAid Afghanistan on the Women’s Rights Program.
She explained that, contrary to the popular belief that it’s religion which suppresses women, many issues surrounding women’s rights in Afghanistan are fueled by the ancient patriarchy traditions that people still live by.
When asked how women in Afghanistan can break the cycle of economical and social disadvantage, Nasima stressed that there is no simple once-off solution.
“A multidimensional approach is needed” she said, “and although a lot has improved, we still need strong political commitment from the government, with strong policies that will protect the rights of women.”
“However,” she continued “women’s commitment to improve their own situation is also important”. Nasima stressed that education is key, and that while the developments in Afghanistan still require a lot of support from the international committee, Afghan women need to learn to stand up and speak out for themselves.
READ MORE: What Afghanistan taught me: Paula Hanasz
“How do we do this? By education. Education is the first step to empower women.”
Nasima’s dream is to open a women’s college, to provide a venue for those women whose education may have been interrupted by war a place to learn, to give them an opportunity to continue their education.
On her current visit to Australia, she secured the support of Australia’s Governor General, Quentin Bryce, a former lawyer and women’s advocate herself, as well as the support of her scholarship host university, UTS.
UNIFEM offers UN Peace Scholarships to women of the world. For further information, visit UNIFEM.org.au.
What impresses you about women like Nasima Rahmani? Do you know any other remarkable women we should feature as Worldette Heroine? Tell us in the comments below!